Old Garito (1978-1998)
It was in 1974, when Garito was born in the Darsena of Ca’n Barbara, a coffee shop with literary aromas.
Palma. A walk from Porta Sant Antoni. Jose Luis Juan Font, dark hair, black mustache, dressed in black clothes, receives us wanting to talk for a while. He was the one to start Café Garito and he is, in this case, the person narrating this story. The first Garito ever, was annexed to the Majorica Hotel, in the same darsena as Ca’n Barbara. “It was my family who started it: my brothers, Rafael, Miguel Angel, my parents and me. We were there since 1974 to 1978. It was a simple bar, small and we would play music in an old disc player. A lot of known people would come here, the guys from The Terreno, people from the community…”.
The name of Garito, has a certain literary aroma origin. During that time, Jose Luis used to go to Don Camilo Jose Cela’s house, in Bonanova. He was a very close friend of his son and would spend many afternoons surrounded by the Son Armadans Papers. “Cela’s dad enjoyed hosting parties, which had few guests, so that he could talk almost all the time. The Galician writer did not enjoy music very much; he was in fact not very fond of music, except for a tango or two. I once played a Carlos Gardel theme for him and he told me that I had chosen the worst and most corny one. In the end… Cela was like that”. One day, Jose Luis Juan would explain to the author of Oficio de Tinieblas 5 that he wanted to set up a bar and the writer suggested giving it the name of one of his stories: Garito from Hospicianos: imposture and bambollas gibberish. But everything seemed very long, too complex, so –between party and party- common sense began to impose itself and the synthetic Garito came up. “There was also a double room in the Bonanova house, which had access to the entrance; two small rooms were papers and magazines were stored”. That place was also called… Garito.
The Cela family influences Font’s artistic form a lot. Something that Café Garito has always helped to promote, due to a certain interest or restlessness: comic, plastic creation, photography, movies and video art, have had a reserved place in the establishment by tradition. Jose Luis’ interest for music and esthetics germinated a step at a time, while annexed to the Majorica. Wishbone Ash and New York Dolls, but also the Rolling Stones, Dylan and Pink Floyd influenced him. “It was the 70s and music had a hallucinogenic creative level. Every little while, Clapton or a similar beast would appear. We were in a friends bar and we would play music that we liked”.
In 1878, Ian Dury rocks. The punk and new wave explosion, sparse in a creative breeze very quickly. The Font family decides to move its business to its actual location, not very far from Majorica Hotel, in a relative new building. The new establishment is larger and better sound equipment is installed. “When we walked in, it was really in a bad state…This is when I had a lot of illusion of creating something new, something that was different. I wanted a decoration that would combine character with old style café and a touch of art-deco with new industrial esthetics.” The black and white hydraulic tiling is placed on the floor. On the upper level, a pool table surrounded with mirrors and wood grills are placed. These would later be used to support some of the art expositions. This is were brothers Andreu and Esteve Terrades would show off their work to others, as well as Luis Juncosa, comics Max and Rafael Vaquer, Sara Gibert or the miniaturist magician Miguel Angel Llonovoy. In “Thursday” Magazine, you can see Café Garito in the strips that Johnny Roqueta created, a classic of the rockabilly style. “They would not say that it was Garito, but it was obvious that it was. Rafael Vaquer would also create some of his best stories here”.
Between pool ball and pool ball, the popular culture was creating a whole in academics and officially. “We did not have many requisites for people to expose their work at Garito, we only asked them to be coherent”. Clients, were still the same as always during the evenings. Victor Uris, who was a teenager and a member of the Coixa Blues Band Armonica, would be seduced by the establishment’s music. Camilo Jose Cela would present himself and sit under the mirror that “Bunoleria” had added. A picture, which is still hung today by the bar, gives him up. “The ex singer from Soft Machine, would not stop asking me to let him perform in the establishment. And I would tell him that he could go to the Piano Bar, were the conditions for him were better”.
There was a good environment in the Ca’n Barbara scene. There is a good tune with neighboring clubs, which are the Corb Mari and the Piano Bar, which was already mentioned here and would later be called Villario. Jaxx guitarist Joan Bibiloni plays there, before going to have a drink at Garito. Jose Luis and his brothers also used to drink something in the neighboring bars. “It was a good time, there was a good tune amongst the three establishments, and we shared conversations and drinks with their owners. People started to come and we would be full during the weekends”.
It was in 1983, when the germ of what would later become Garito’s new era is born. A young man from Valladolid, named Nacho Velasco, visits Mallorca during a school trip. He drops by Garito one afternoon. He listens to Wish you were here by Pink Floyd and is stuck with local atmosphere. Hours later, he comes back, when it is already dark. The music is a lot more rhythmic now and guitars are more cutting and aggressive. A mental and affective relation is born, which has lasted until today.
Luis Dias Santilano, who is friends with Jose Luis, is in charge of buying and mixing vinyl discs. These plastics would provide the sound band with an unrepeatable era, from Sioxie and The Banshees to The Cure, Echo and The Bunnymen or the Chameleons. “During that time, we discovered something new: Spanish music. We even associated hip Madrid music with tambourines and couplets. All of a sudden, after listening to Alaska, Loquillo or Nacha Pop we had a change”. The early 80’s give Gomila a chance, with Terminal and Chotis up front, but the Ca’n Barbara Darsena would follow its own internal pulses. There was beer, a lot of beer. The barrels of Damm house were the most popular ones.
While Palma gets to know the effusive sounds of hip Madrid music, Garito begins to play Peor Imposible’s music, whose members also visited the place on a regular basis. People would come in masses on Friday nights, while the chupitos would become popular. “We marketed ourselves without flyers, but people responded. Famous people would pass unnoticed here, they felt relaxed. In fact, that last thing we had on mind, was calling the press”. The eighties were lived happily, while Café Garito competed against La Polilla, Joe’s or El Patio. “In 88, we would get a lot of people, new people”. It was the first golden age of the café, when it was still not called a club. It was a unique and special moment, which slowly decreased with the nineties.
The grunge decade was right at our doorstep. The bars in the industry would change owners, while the environment becomes more hostile, losing the family environment that had characterized Ca’n Barbara for the past decade. Jose Luis would introduce some innovations, like a sandwich menu. “Basically, we copied what La Farmacia was doing, as they had been very successful and were very good. There was no other secret. Even though we tried, we did not accomplish this successfully”. The neighboring establishments begin hosting the first after hour parties. Police control over the zone increases and the harmony disappears. In order to prevent problems, Juan’s family is obliged to prohibit the consumption of cannabis in the establishment. “I became obsessed with the topic. We did not want problems; we only wanted to keep the bar open. This is when I had to be a little tough with some clients, to the point where I had to place some signs saying: In this establishment, the only drugs that are allowed are tobacco and alcohol”. In the mid 90s and in certain way, due to the saddening environment in the darsena, the establishment starts losing popularity and Juan’s family begins to think about selling their business. Finally, on a March day in 1998, the last song from the old Garito was heard.